Archive for the ‘buying’ Category

Vietnam Envoy In Africa Arrested: Dealing in Banned Rhino

November 19, 2008

Vietnam says it will recall one of its diplomats from South Africa after she was filmed in an apparent illegal purchase of a rhinoceros horn.

A TV crew accompanying government investigators filmed an agent for a gang of poachers meeting the woman outside Vietnam’s embassy in Pretoria.

BBC

They filmed the agent handing the horn to the diplomat, who then took it inside the embassy building.

Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry said it had recalled her to “clarify the affair”.

Vietnam’s ambassador to South Africa, Tran Duy Thi, told the BBC that action had to be taken.

Rhinoceros (file image)
Crushed rhino horn is prized in some traditional East Asian medicine

“She did it right at the front steps of the embassy,” he said. “You see, they filmed the Vietnamese flag as she was doing it – how shameful! There must be a sanction.”

More than 40 rhinos are said to have been killed in South Africa this year.

Conservationists say Vietnamese syndicates are heavily involved in the illegal trade of their horns.

Crushed rhinoceros horn is a prized ingredient in traditional East Asian medicine, where it is used to treat fever and high blood pressure.

Nosorožec

Retail sales fall by record amount in October

November 14, 2008

Retail sales plunged by the largest amount on record in October as the financial crisis and the slumping economy caused consumers to sharply cut back on their spending.

The Commerce Department said Friday that retail sales fell by 2.8 percent last month, surpassing the old mark of a 2.65 percent drop in November 2001 in the wake of the terrorist attacks that year.

By MARTIN CRUTSINGER, AP Economics Writer

The decline in sales was led by a huge drop in auto purchases, but sales of all types of products from furniture to clothing fell as consumers retrenched.

The 2.8 percent drop marked the fourth consecutive monthly decline in retail sales and was much bigger than the 2 percent fall economists expected.

The weakness was led by a 5.5 percent plunge in auto sales, the biggest drop since August 2005. Auto companies reported unit sales fell to the lowest level in 17 years as potential buyers, frightened by all the turmoil on Wall Street, stayed away from auto showrooms.

Excluding autos, retail sales fell by 2.2 percent, also a record decline, underscoring the widespread weakness last month.

Consumer spending accounts for two-thirds of total economic activity and weakness in this area was the major factor dragging down overall economic growth in the July-September quarter. The gross domestic product fell 0.3 percent at an annual rate during the third quarter, the strongest signal yet that the country has fallen into a recession.

Many economists believe the GDP will drop by an even bigger amount in the current October-December period and will continue falling through the first two quarters of next year. They are expecting that the financial crisis, the worst in seven decades, will produce the country’s worst recession since the 1981-1982 downturn.

The government reported last week that the unemployment rate shot up to 6.5 percent in October, and many economists believe it will top 8 percent before the economy starts to mount a sustained rebound.

The retail sales report showed that sales at general merchandise stores, the category that includes big chains such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and department stores, fell by 0.4 percent, while sales at specialty clothing stores were down a bigger 1.4 percent.

Sales at furniture stores dropped by 2.5 percent, with sales at appliance stores and sport goods stores also showing declines.

One of the few areas to show an increase was the category that includes restaurants and bars which posted a small 0.3 percent gain, perhaps reflecting the desire of some to seek solace during turbulent economic times.

China’s Premier Says Global Financial Meltdown “Worse Than First Thought” for China

November 13, 2008

China’s Premier Wen Jiabao said the effect of the global financial meltdown on the country was “worse than expected,” state media said Thursday, in a sign of growing concern at the impact of the crisis.

AFP

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao at a press conference in Beijing. ... 
Part geologist, part economist, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao at a press conference in Beijing. Wen Jiabao has said the effect of the global financial meltdown on the country was “worse than expected,” state media have said, in a sign of growing concern at the impact of the crisis.(AFP/File/Eric Feferberg)  

Wen was quoted as making the assessment by the director of the National Bureau of Statistics Ma Jiantang when he briefed his staff on Tuesday, according to the website of the bureau’s newspaper China Information News.

“The impact of the global financial crisis on the Chinese economy is much worse than many had expected,” Ma said according to the website, passing on remarks made by Wen.

China initially said the global financial crisis would not cause too much harm to its economy, but in recent days the signals from Beijing have changed markedly.

Wen’s comment comes after the Chinese government unveiled a four trillion yuan (586 billion dollars) economic stimulus plan on Sunday aimed at boosting domestic consumer demand in the face of flagging exports.

Six Months after Myanmar Cyclone, Rebuilding Lags Due To Government Hastles

November 2, 2008

After the cyclone devestated Myanmar last May, the military junta governing the former Burma was so uncooperative and unhelpful that even international aid groups were delayed and hastled….

From the Associated Press

YANGON, Myanmar – Six months after Cyclone Nargis smashed into Myanmar‘s coastline, killing tens of thousands of people, aid groups say once-lagging relief efforts have picked up pace but the task of rebuilding and recovery is far from finished.

Foreign aid staffers were initially barred from cyclone-affected areas and the ruling military junta was criticized for its ineffective response to the May 2-3 disaster. During a visit by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in late May, it agreed to allow in some foreign aid workers and formed a “Tripartite Core Group” made up of the government, the U.N. and Southeast Asian countries to facilitate the flow of international assistance.

A Buddhist monk walks over the remains of his cyclone-destroyed ... 
A Buddhist monk walks over the remains of his cyclone-destroyed monastery in Kaunt Chaung. Six months since Cyclone Nargis lashed the secretive state of Myanmar – killing 138,000 people – the initial despair over the ruling junta’s inaction has been replaced by cautious optimism that more aid is reaching the country’s needy, the UN has said.(AFP/File/Lisandru)

Despite the slow initial response, “the relief effort for the first six months has been successful,” said Ramesh Shrestha, the representative in Myanmar for UNICEF, which has coordinated aid to women and children. “However, we cannot stop now.”

The U.N. said in a statement issued Sunday on behalf of the Tripartite Core Group that “there is a continued need for emergency relief, as well as support for early and long-term recovery efforts.”

Only 53.3 percent of the $484 million in relief money sought by a U.N.-coordinated appeal has been raised, it said.

The official death toll is 84,537, with 53,836 others listed as missing. Some 2.4 million people were severely affected by the storm, with the total damage estimated as high as $4 billion.

A major pressing issue is how survivors will be able to support themselves.

Recent visitors to the Irrawaddy Delta, the area worst hit by the storm, report that most cyclone victims have cooking utensils, mosquito nets and other basic necessities. But they express concern about opportunities to earn enough money to buy food.

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081102/ap_on_re_as/as_myanmar_cyclone_
recovery;_ylt=AoBSM67gxcYSKm3mpGUipeCs0NUE

Specter of Deflation Lurks as Global Demand Drops

November 1, 2008

As dozens of countries slip deeper into financial distress, a new threat may be gathering force within the American economy — the prospect that goods will pile up waiting for buyers and prices will fall, suffocating fresh investment and worsening joblessness for months or even years.

By Peter S. Goodman
The New York Times

The word for this is deflation, or declining prices, a term that gives economists chills.

Deflation accompanied the Depression of the 1930s. Persistently falling prices also were at the heart of Japan’s so-called lost decade after the catastrophic collapse of its real estate bubble at the end of the 1980s — a period in which some experts now find parallels to the American predicament.

 
The Mansfield Manufacturing plant in Dongguan, China. The global economic crisis is threatening the country’s factory jobs.  Photo: Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“That certainly is the snapshot of the risk I see,” said Robert J. Barbera, chief economist at the research and trading firm ITG. “It is the crisis we face.”

With economies around the globe weakening, demand for oil, copper, grains and other commodities has diminished, bringing down prices of these raw materials. But prices have yet to decline noticeably for most goods and services, with one conspicuous exception — houses. Still, reduced demand is beginning to soften prices for a few products, like furniture and bedding, which are down slightly since the beginning of 2007, according to government data. Prices are also falling for some appliances, tools and hardware.

Only a few months ago, American policy makers were worried about the reverse problem — rising prices, or inflation — as then-soaring costs for oil and food filtered through the economy. In July, average prices were 5.6 percent higher than a year earlier — the fastest pace of inflation since 1991. But by the end of September, annual inflation had dipped to 4.9 percent and was widely expected to go lower.

The new worry is that in the worst case, the end of inflation may be the beginning of something malevolent: a long, slow retrenchment in which consumers and businesses worldwide lose the wherewithal to buy, sending prices down for many goods. Though still considered unlikely, that would prompt businesses to slow production and accelerate layoffs, taking more paychecks out of the economy and further weakening demand.

Read the rest:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/01/business/e
conomy/01deflation.html?_r=1&hp&oref=slogin

Recession Will Likely Be Long, Deep Says Consumer Spending Trend

October 31, 2008

By Patrice Hill
The Washington Times

Consumers this summer pulled back on spending by the most since 1980, driving the economy into what analysts expect to be one of the nastiest recessions in decades.

The nation’s legions of shoppers started out the summer cutting back on purchases from food and clothing to cars primarily because of record high gas prices of more than $4 a gallon. But the trend worsened even as gas prices dropped with the approach of fall, when a severe credit crisis caused huge stock losses, job cuts and an unprecedented collapse in consumer confidence.

Battered consumers cut spending by 3.1 percent, curbing purchases of both essential and discretionary goods such as clothing, newspapers, food and fuel by 6.4 percent — the most since 1950 — and slashing purchases of big-ticket items such as cars and appliances by a devastating 14 percent, the Commerce Department reported Thursday.

$100 dollar bills are being counted in this undated handout ...

Consumers barely maintained spending on services from haircuts to sports and entertainment.

Consumers normally fuel 70 percent of economic activity and continued to spend during the last recession in 2001, but their rare retraction in the latest quarter caused the economy to shrink by 0.3 percent.

With a multitude of developments from job losses to falling credit card limits conspiring to keep consumers at bay, analysts say, the economy is in for a long slog. A recovery may not arrive until this time next year.

“The U.S. economy has clearly moved into recession,” said Swiss Re economist Kurt Karl. “The outlook has deteriorated sharply over the past two months. The credit crisis will have a severe impact on the real economy — in the U.S. and globally.”

Mr. Karl held out hope that the economy will improve in the second half of next year after the banking system and financial markets slowly stabilize and the housing market ends its steep fall.

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2008/
oct/31/consumers-signal-bad-recession/

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American Consumers Borrow Even More

By JEANNINE AVERSA, AP Economics Writer

WASHINGTON – Beaten down and watching their wealth shrink, Americans are burrowing ever deeper — cutting back on spending and spelling more trouble for the sinking economy.

One of the biggest problems saddling the country is damage from the housing market’s collapse. Mounting foreclosures, falling home prices and soured mortgage investments are taking their toll on both individuals and businesses alike.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, who is scheduled to speak via satellite Friday at a Berkeley, Calif., conference on the mortgage meltdown, is likely to call on government officials and lawmakers to keep working on ways to provide more relief.

The Bush administration is considering a plan that would help around 3 million struggling homeowners avoid foreclosure by having the government guarantee billions of dollars worth of distressed mortgages. The plan also could include loan modifications that would lower interest rates for a five-year period.

Fallout from the housing meltdown has spurred the worst global credit and financial crisis in more than a half century. To combat the problems, the government has taken a flurry of bold steps. The Treasury Department is pouring $250 billion into banks in return for partial ownership and the Fed this week started buying mounds of debt from companies. It also slashed interest rates to 1 percent, a level seen only once before in the last half century.

A new batch of economic reports out Friday is likely to offer fresh confirmation of the stresses weighing on American consumers. Income growth is expected to barely budge in September, inching up just 0.1 percent, according to economists’ estimates. Consumers probably trimmed their spending during the month by 0.3 percent, economists predict.

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081031/ap_on_bi_ge/
financial_meltdown;_ylt=Al6I_fO7EM5xBSCF2EJtjBCs0NUE

Consumer Confidence at All Time Low

October 28, 2008

Layoffs, plunging home prices and tumbling investments have pushed consumer pessimism to record levels in October, a private research group said Tuesday. Wall Street shook it off, though, focusing instead on higher global markets amid optimism the Federal Reserve will ease interest rates further.

By CHRISTOPHER S. RUGABER, AP Economics Writer

The Conference Board said the consumer confidence index fell to 38, down from a revised 61.4 in September and significantly below analysts’ expectations of 52.

An employee working as a money changer prepares U.S. dollar ...

That’s the lowest level for the index since the Conference Board began tracking consumer sentiment in 1967, and the third-steepest drop. A year ago, the index stood at 95.2.

Wall Street, which has come to expect bad news on the economy, took the report in stride. The Dow gave up some of its early gains but was still up about 2 percent in midday trading, while the broader S&P 500 index rose 1.7 percent.

Investors are expecting the Federal Reserve to cut its target interest rate Wednesday by up to one-half a percentage point to 1 percent after its two-day meeting that began Tuesday.

In addition, European and Asian financial markets were up significantly Tuesday on expectations of the cut.

The news was not good for Main Street, though.

“Consumers are extremely pessimistic,” said Lynn Franco, director of the Conference Board’s Consumer Research Center. “This news does not bode well for retailers who are already bracing for what is shaping up to be a very challenging holiday season.”

Separately, a closely watched index of home prices fell by its steepest ever annual rate in August.

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081028/ap_on_bi_
ge/financial_meltdown;_ylt=AvFHy3dQgaV.mq1iCIt6A.us0NUE

Make-or-Break Holiday Season Looms Large for Retailers Amid Global Financial Crisis

October 9, 2008

By Ylan Q. Mui and Kendra Marr
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, October 9, 2008; Page A01

Each day of financial tumult is bringing more pressure to bear on the nation’s retailers — and time is growing short.
Yesterday, as the clock ticked ominously down to the critical holiday season, department stores and clothing retailers reported a sharp drop in sales while Target said its shoppers are delinquent in their store credit card payments. Port traffic, meanwhile, has been plummeting as retailers cut back on inventory.

“I don’t think anyone predicted a crisis of this magnitude that couldn’t be fixed quickly,” said Bob Carbonell, chief credit officer for Bernard Sands, a retail rating and credit services agency. “If the American housewife puts the money under the mattress, we’re in deep trouble.”

In a year that seems to be defying all economic expectations, retailers are struggling to plot a course through the make-or-break holiday season, which accounts for nearly 20 percent of their sales each year. Will they have access to credit? How much merchandise should they order? Will anyone buy it? The moves they make now could determine where they stand in January.

The past three months were expected to bring the deepest cuts in consumer spending since the 1991 recession. September’s dire economic news — from the collapse of Lehman Brothers to the freefall in the financial markets to the government’s $700 billion rescue plan — have spooked shoppers and eroded confidence. On the day that the House of Representatives rejected the rescue plan, mall traffic plunged 12 percent, according to research firm ShopperTrak.

Scott and Elaine Bourdeau feel the ripples. The couple, who live in Herndon, had planned to travel to Italy for their 10th anniversary but opted instead to save money with a short trip to the San Francisco Bay area. They’re postponing remodeling their bathroom and focusing on necessities — clothes for their two daughters.

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/w
p-dyn/content/article/2008/10/08
/AR2008100804024.html?hpid=topnews

Bargains await cash-rich China

October 9, 2008

By Chris O’Brien
The Washington Times

BEIJING | When the world’s economies bottom out, the most populous nation will be better poised than others to turn the financial implosion to its advantage, leading Chinese economists say.

China‘s financial institutions have been relatively unscathed by the meltdown. Laden with $1.8 trillion in foreign exchange reserves, they possess the spending power to splurge on bargain-price shares in the world´s crumbling banking and real estate giants.

China's founding leader Mao Zedong appears on Chinese currency, ...
China’s founding leader Mao Zedong appears on Chinese currency, the Yuan. (AFP/File/Frederic J. Brown)

A mood of caution appears to prevail, however, after two high-profile investments faltered last year.

The China Investment Corp. (CIC), a sovereign wealth fund set up a year ago with $200 billion in foreign exchange to invest, bought a $3 billion stake in Blackstone Group and $5 billion in Morgan Stanley, both of which are mired in the U.S. crisis.

The Chinese government’s reluctance to wield its financial clout overseas would represent a missed opportunity to invest in some “grossly undervalued” companies, said Yao Shujie, an economics professor and head of the School of Contemporary Chinese Studies at Nottingham University in Britain.

“Investors are repressed by fear and a lack of confidence at the moment, and it is understandable individual investors don´t want to jeopardize their life savings. But China, as a country, has the ability to bear a large amount of risk. Now is the time to take risks,” he said.

Mr. Yao is not advocating a wholesale purchase of Wall Street´s financial stocks. China lacks the experience and expertise to manage the likes of Goldman Sachs or Morgan Stanley, the remaining major investment banks.

Instead, he said, China should follow a strategy of “a billion dollars here, a billion dollars there,” spreading risks over a diversified portfolio, and should consider board-level representation so Chinese bankers can learn new management techniques.

A week ago, Japanese banking giant Mitsubishi UFJ Financial completed a $9 billion deal to buy a 21 percent share in Morgan Stanley.

“If the Chinese government follows this kind of policy, then by the time this crisis is over, which in my view will be in one to two years, it could have made a huge profit from it,” Mr. Yao said.

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2008/oct
/09/bargains-await-cash-rich-china/